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Mapping Optimized Future Carbon Stock Corridors For Climate and Biodiversity
  • Rachel Lamb
Rachel Lamb
University of Maryland at College Park

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Given the recent availability of high-resolution data on both current forest carbon stocks and restoration potential, the next geospatial and computational challenge is to utilize this data to identify priority areas for reforestation. Strategic reforestation activities, which account for both carbon sequestration potential as well as co-benefits, such as biodiversity protection, riparian management, and economic opportunity, can provide particularly attractive options for policy-makers who must manage competing social and environmental goals. The objective of this work is to identify potential future carbon corridors that can advance habitat connectivity while maximizing co-benefits for climate mitigation. While there have been efforts to map existing habitat corridors, we identify future corridors to incorporate strategic reforestation into land-use planning. First, we mapped current protected areas and the distribution of priority habitat across Maryland (USA) using the MD BioNet and PAD-US databases. Then, using high-resolution NASA Carbon Monitoring System forest carbon products, we identified optimal future corridors between existing protected areas in the state based on established viability factors, including the: amount of carbon stored, time to achieve habitat requirement, path length (land required), land ownership, and current land-use. Using a least-cost corridor model (prominently used by Jantz et al. 2014 to identify current carbon-habitat corridors in the Amazon), we found that reforesting a 1km habitat corridor connecting all protected areas larger than 20 ha in size results in 48% of the state’s land area being protected. Such a corridor would sequester an additional 80 Tg C and protect more than 132 Tg C in total, including the ongoing growth of existing trees along corridor pathways. This estimate is close to 50% of the state’s remaining carbon sequestration potential and would advance the state’s climate goals outlined in the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. More broadly, this approach to reforestation is useful for states interested in facilitating species migration in the face of ongoing environmental change while maximizing co-benefits.